Holdren: White House still supports NASA policy; another presidential speech coming?

Last's week meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at NASA Ames featured a presentation by John Holdren, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). His talk, and the Q&A session afterward, covered general issues associated with science policy and NASA. That included the message that the administration was still committed to the NASA policy it unveiled just over 18 months ago, as well as a little frustration about how it's been communicated to the public. "The president and [NASA administrator] Charlie [Bolden] and I have all been accused from time to time of not having a vision, of not having a destination, of not having a plan, and I think that's just misinformation," Holdren said. All three of those elements exist, he claimed, specifically arguing that investments in advanced technologies-something threatened with significant cuts in the current Congressional debate on the FY12 budget-are essential to meeting those objectives. Later, Holdren described how he and bolden tried to get published an op-ed intended, as he put it, to "knock down, in succession, five of these misconceptions" about the administration's plans. That op-ed was submitted but rejected by the Washington Post and the New York Times; it eventually appeared in POLITICO last month. "We couldn't get it published. Nobody would take it," he said, his exasperation clearly evident even those listening in to the presentation via telecon. "It's been quite frustrating." "We are thinking about ways to do better," he said. "I have had some discussions with the president about whether it's time for another major presidential speech about our space policy and our space program and our priorities." The president, he added, has been tied up with other issues, most notably the debt ceiling debate, "but now that that's done, we're going to come back to all these other issues that need his attention, and I think one of them will be the space issue." That space policy, Holdren said, is based on three "pillars" for human spaceflight: extending the life of the ISS to at least 2020, developing commercial crew systems for transport to and from ISS, and advanced technology investments. "These three pillars were fully supported by me and by Charlie Bolden," he said. Later, he added: The president remains completely committed to those pillars of his human space exploration policy… He will continue to be an ally as we try to figure out this exceptionally diverse and important array of NASA missions done in a severely budget-constrained environment." He criticized Congress, though, for trying to get NASA to work on those priorities plus the immediate development of a heavy-lift vehicle without sufficient funding. "If you want to do everything, you have to provide the money to do everything," he said. "If we're going to build a heavy-lift rocket now and invest in the advanced technologies that we're going need to make use of a heavy-lift rocket to go to destinations in deep space, safely, efficiently, rapidly, you've got to have the budget… That really is our great challenge going forward."

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